Guests: Richard Wolffe, Richard Engel, Chris Hayes, Melissa Harris-Lacewell
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The supreme leader tries to placate the protestors—perhaps 1 million, opposition presidential candidate Mousavi included—protest nonetheless, in the plaza named for the Ayatollah Khomeini.
Even state-run television acknowledges there were hundreds of thousands of Iranians there—peaceful and not going away.
OLBERMANN: As Iran protests, Richard Engel with the latest; as American politicians react, Richard Wolffe with the perspective.
It‘s speaks. The president a long time ago, George W. Bush, breaks his promise about his successor deserving his silence. On Obama‘s reforms, quote, “There are a lot of ways to remedy the situation without nationalizing health care.” On Obama‘s carrying out of Bush‘s own hope to close Gitmo, “Therapy isn‘t going to cause terrorists to change their mind” and he prefers persuasion. Still crazy after all of these years.
Limbaugh—back over the racism line.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I think I‘m going to send Sotomayor and her club a bunch of vacuum cleaners to help them clean up after their meeting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: A sad man destroying himself in a fight he does not realize he has already lost.
Worsts: The strongly-worded reprimand of the staffer responsible for this racism from her boss, the Tennessee state senator, “Your service to my office and the legislature has been commendable with the exception of this incident and I look forward to working together in the future.” Ooh! Feel the burn?
And, don‘t call her Liz! The e-mail exchange with Washington Congressman Jim McDermott‘s office manager which is sweeping the nation. Nineteen e-mails later, Elizabeth “Don‘t call me Liz” Becton demands, “Quit apologizing and never call me anything but Elizabeth again. Also, make sure you correct anyone who attempts to call me by any other name but Elizabeth!”
Tonight‘s WTF Moment: Don‘t call her Liz!
All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.
Never. I hate that name!
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
Rare is the uprising that can be characterized with the adjective serene.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: What could be 1 million Iranian protesters—their numbers in resolve growing by the day—quietly flooding the streets of Tehran in a show of defiance and mourning. Demonstrations as funeral march nearly, protesters pouring into the streets to mourn those who have killed since the results of Iran‘s disputed election were released. Black is the dominant color today, in addition to the green of the leading opposition candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi.
Many protestors are holding pictures of the victims, at least 15 people having been killed in this week‘s violence. Even Iranian state TV put the size of today‘s crowd at hundreds of thousands. A web site for Mr. Mousavi estimating turnout was about 1 million. Mousavi himself is addressing the demonstrators by a loud speaker, calling on his supporters to remain peaceful but not to give up.
The Iranian government having trying to preclude the day‘s demonstration by offering to meet with all three opposition candidates on Saturday, to listen to their allegations of vote rigging. Six days into the dispute, this offer clearly not nearly enough.
President Ahmadinejad also making an attempt to appear conciliatory, at least, in a statement broadcast on state TV, distancing himself from earlier comments in which he had compared protesters to soccer hooligans and dismissed them as dust. Today, Ahmadinejad is saying, quote, “Every single Iranian is valuable. The government is at everyone‘s service. We like everyone.”
Earlier efforts at stopping the uprising by force seeming to have failed. An amateur video purporting to the show damage at Tehran University after pro-government militias are alleged to have raided the campus on Monday. As many as 200 students said to have been detained.
The supreme leaders speak at the university tomorrow. That‘s overnight our time, during Friday prayers, in what is expected to be a call for peace combined with a warning of severe consequences if protests continue.
Meanwhile, here in the United States, the White House tried to answer criticism from Republicans that it is not doing enough to back Mousavi and his supporters. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs with a reminder that the president does support them even if he cannot intervene.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has spoken to, in many ways, the causes and concerns of many that are marching in Iran by demonstrating, one, that he shares their concern and the international concern about the way the election was conducted. Secondly, he believes that there‘s a universal principle of demonstrating without the fear of harm.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: President Obama‘s Republican opposition—including some of the same people who joked about wanting to bomb Iran—now expressing outrage that the Obama administration is not doing enough. Minority Whip Cantor is saying in a statement, quote, “America has a moral responsibility to stand up to these brave people, to defend human rights and to condemn the violence and abuses by the regime in Tehran.” Congressman Cantor adding that it is because of its election brutality that the Iranian government cannot be trusted with nuclear power. Well, that makes sense.
And as we reported first here last nice, Congressman Pete Hoekstra comparing the use of Twitter by the Iranians to organize and get the message out in their life and death struggle for democracy to how members of his party in this country use Twitter to complain about Speaker Nancy Pelosi‘s decision to adjourn Congress last year, “Iranian Twitter activity similar to what we did in House last year when Republicans were shut down in the House.” Yes, this would be the same congressman who, last year, tweeted the whereabouts of a top secret mission to Iraq.
Hoekstra‘s spokesman falling to explain it away today when he added to this controversy by saying his boss did not compare the ongoing violence in Iran to when Democrats shut down the House chamber during the energy debate last summer, but he added, the two situations were very similar.
Trying to assess the situation in Iran is—required greater expertise than I have certainly, and we‘re fortunate enough once again to be joined by chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel.
And it‘s good to have you again and good to have you in town for this.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS: Thank you very much.
OLBERMANN: Cracking down did not limit the size of the crowds. They came out and fought there, whatever fears they might have and—
ENGEL: The crowds have also taken a different approach.
OLBERMANN: But, yes—
ENGEL: They‘re now trying to be peaceful. They are not shouting any slogans. They are, by and large, silent. So, it‘s a different approach. They‘re directly trying to or actively trying to avoid confrontation.
OLBERMANN: Is there any indication of cause and effect on this? Is that like an agreement between these two sides or did it just work out this way, that there would be a different approach from the government and from the protesters?
ENGEL: No. It‘s a very, very smart campaign by Mousavi. And some of his advisers say that they are taking inspiration from other movements that have worked in the past, particularly Gandhi and some people are comparing this to Gandhi‘s movement. But the idea of holding these peaceful protests is to not provoke the police.
And we haven‘t seen that much violence. The violence was in the early days and, according to different sources there, at least 15 people have been killed. It hasn‘t been a brutal crackdown. There have been quite a few arrests, quite a bit of intimidation, but we have not seen any of that, you know, Tiananmen Square moment.
OLBERMANN: Is that still a prospect?
ENGEL: It depends on what happens tomorrow. Tomorrow is key. Yes, it‘s still a prospect, but if the movement stays peaceful, it would be difficult for the government to open fire on hundreds of thousands or perhaps as many as 1 million people.
Tomorrow, the reason it‘s so key is that the supreme leader is putting himself out there. And there‘s three things he could say. One, he could say, I accept the demands of the demonstrators, which would be to give in and he would be throwing Ahmadinejad under a bus; and emerging as a leader and saving himself. That‘s one possibility. It could happen.
OLBERMANN: And totally change his nation, of course.
ENGEL: It would totally change his nation. It would say that he is now accountable to popular will, and that there was a mistake in the system, and he‘s calling for a new election. It could happen, if he wants to emerge as a, you know, Juan Carlos of Spain, saver of the nation in time of crisis.
The other option is that he comes out and he says, “This is a serious time. We must appeal as Iranians to come. We must respect the ideals of the revolution. Don‘t listen to the foreign agitation,” and that these protests are being fueled by, places like the United States, Iran‘s already complained about American involvement, and that this is plots by foreign saboteurs and terrorists.
Already today, Iran said that it captured some explosives.
ENGEL: That it said were planted there to disrupt the election process and to cause chaos.
So, this seems to be the direction that they‘re heading in, which is to say, “Don‘t listen to this. Don‘t be fooled and agitated. Trust the system. Give us more time.”
The third would be, if he came out and said, “Congratulations. We must all unite behind President Ahmadinejad. Everyone get home or you will be shot.”
ENGEL: And—so, I think you will probably see something in the middle which buys a little bit more time.
OLBERMANN: Realistically, what do protesters do if it is that one as oppose—the third one, obviously leads to chaos, the first leads to dancing in the street. If the middle is the most likely, where do—where do these protest, as you‘ve described .
ENGEL: That‘s why .
OLBERMANN: . it has morphed in so many different ways already. What happens next?
ENGEL: That‘s why they play it cool. That‘s why they‘re not shouting the slogans any more. They have to stay out there. They have to use their energy and to continue this movement and to not give in. That would be their response. Their response will be: we‘re staying out in the streets but we‘re not going to provoke a fight. Iran hasn‘t declared a curfew.
ENGEL: Just being out on the street .
OLBERMANN: It‘s still .
ENGEL: . is not illegal.
ENGEL: It‘s—they‘re not destroying property. They‘re just out on the street expressing their demands.
OLBERMANN: If it is not a hard-line crackdown, and again, we sort of we calculated this before the show. We‘re talking 3:30 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time. So, we‘ll know this by the morning, what at least the statement will be made. Yes?
ENGEL: By the time America wakes up, we should have an idea.
OLBERMANN: Can it be fairly said that unless it is an absolute crackdown that that nation has already changed significantly in the last week?
ENGEL: Not yet. Not yet. It has changed in that a lot of expression has been made public, and a lot of people‘s voices have been heard and there‘s been a lot of attention focused on Iran. And that‘s positive.
People in America and around the world know more about Iran than they did before and they know that it is not just a black and white society full of mullahs who want to get the bomb. It‘s much more sophisticated than that. So, it‘s changed that way.
But if Mousavi is suddenly declared the victor and new elections happen, yes, it‘s changed a lot. If Iran decides they‘re going to fully back Ahmadinejad and crackdown and send in the tanks, it‘s changed because they could be heading towards a crisis. If they just take this middle ground and blame it on outsiders and say, “Give us a few more days to work out the process,” then we‘re in—it‘s still an ongoing story.
OLBERMANN: I guess it is—it is life or death there. It is fascinating here and obviously has all sorts of extraordinary implications here. But we are, again, grateful that our chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel has been here the last few days to help the story out.
ENGEL: I‘d rather be there, but I didn‘t have much of a choice.
OLBERMANN: Well, the good with the bad coming out of this. Thank you again, sir.
For more on the domestic political fallout here, let‘s turn to our political analyst, Richard Wolffe.
Richard, good evening.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: If President Obama were to speak out to the extent that Republican leadership is indicated it wants him to, wouldn‘t Richard‘s point just then really come into play here that the U.S. would be the issue in Iran and that speech at 3:30 in the morning instead of Ahmadinejad or Mousavi?
WOLFFE: Yes, you would think that would be obvious by now. Not at least from the comments we‘re hearing, as Richard Engel eloquently explained, coming from Iran itself and from the regime. But even if you just ignore recent events, I mean, you‘d have to ignore three or four decades of American engagement and disengagement with Iran.
And now, I‘ve heard Republican officials saying recently, you know, the revolution was a long time ago. There are lots of young Iranians who know nothing about that period. So, it‘s no longer really relevant. That‘s a bit like saying, you know, the British rule in America is no longer relevant or the Civil War is no longer relevant.
This is the organizing principle for Iranian politics over the last several decades. You cannot ignore that. So, intervening in an aggressive way may feel good but can be entirely counterproductive.
OLBERMANN: Is this at this point, we speculate as to what‘s going to happen next in Iran. What‘s going to happen next in Washington? Are we on the verge of this turning into a kind of farcical thing, this Republican reaction to it, not unlike that really—increasingly, as the days went by sleazy exploitation of the Russian/Georgian countertop in late summer last year and Mr. McCain‘s involvement inserting himself into that? Is that—are we like that or is this still just people yelling from the sidelines?
WOLFFE: Oh, no. This has already moved on. I think it‘s not an unreasonable comparison, except that the stakes are very much higher. And, look, just to roll back the tape a little bit, Iran after 9/11 was actually pretty cooperative with the Bush administration, and the door was slammed on that by—yet again—tough talk by the rhetoric about “axis of evil.”
Now, the recent examples are there, and, look, Iran, the same time the Bush administration tried to mess around with the German elections and said that Schroeder at that time was poisoning the relationship. Schroeder came back with an even bigger majority than he had before.
So, look, the question here is: what is the end game? What do Republicans really want other than to embarrass or harass the Obama administration? If they‘re serious about Iran, they need to start engaging with their brains here.
OLBERMANN: Are we then flashing back to the Vietnam idea? We have to free this village by destroying it? One way or the other, the Republican argument always comes back to—well, we‘ve got to invade, bomb, or do something militarily.
WOLFFE: Well, look. I don‘t know what targets they think they‘re going to find. You know, if there were targets out there, people would have identified them already.
And, again, look, Iraq has made it pretty clear. You can‘t change people‘s minds with bombs or guns in that way.
And Iran, as these demonstrations have shown, is a nation in flux. There is pro-American sentiment, along with obviously rabid anti-Americanism. And, you know, to allow that to flourish requires, again, something more than just tough talk or bombs.
OLBERMANN: I guess we‘ll see what happens when the supreme leader speaks tomorrow and whether or not we are invoked in some negative way. Maybe that will shut this down. And then, again, maybe it won‘t.
WOLFFE: Maybe it won‘t.
OLBERMANN: Richard Wolffe of MSNBC, author of “Renegade”—as always, Richard, great thanks.
WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Amazingly, in a televised presidential debate in Iran just two weeks ago, Mousavi told President Ahmadinejad he had created tensions between other countries and Iran, to which Ahmadinejad responded he had merely defended his country from bullying world powers. The kind of longer version of a refrain all-too familiar here: “He kept us safe.” George W. Bush himself said that last night about himself at a paid appearance, during which he also finally tried to explain the “My Pet Goat” fiasco, and during which he was hard pressed to live up to his vow that his successor in the Oval Office deserved his silence—so hard-pressed as it proved that he stopped living up to it.
“W.” No like. Next.
OLBERMANN: Ex-President George W. Bush vowed that his successor deserved his silence, it turns out that offer was only valid until somebody ponied up for his speaking fee. Mr. Bush does not want to criticize Mr. Obama but, he‘ll get over it.
And desperation from Rush Limbaugh, now comparing Judge Sonia Sotomayor to a housekeeper.
And then the “a la recherche du temps perdu” of e-mail threads. Don‘t call her Liz. Her name is Elizabeth. She wants to know who told you to call her Liz. She wants you to make sure nobody else in the world ever calls her Liz.
A dramatic reading of e-mails that you still won‘t believe after you hear them—tonight on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: President Bush, last night, tiptoed towards criticizing President Obama, but went further in blasting the policies of former President Bush.
Our fourth story tonight: Forging an honorable Bush legacy by standing against everything he once stood for. Speaking in Erie, Pennsylvania, for an undisclosed amount, what a great place to start this tour, Mr. Bush answered questions submitted beforehand. Sponsor, the Manufacturer and Business Association, applauding loudly, no one apparently submit a question asking why Mr. Bush had devastated manufacturing and business.
And asked what he wanted his legacy to be, Mr. Bush replied, quote, “He protected the country”—without explaining how such a legacy might accrue a president on whose watch the nation suffered its worst domestic attack ever.
Mr. Bush, according to “The Washington Times” instead explained last night that on that day, quote, “I realized that we were in crisis. And the first thing I do in any crisis is calm. If you‘re president and all of a sudden the whole world is watching you, and you get up and do something precipitously, frighten children, storm out, that kind of movement will cascade through a society.”
Eight years later, Mr. Bush still having not explained why the sight of him getting up and walking rather than, say, storming out of a room might frighten anyone, and apparently unaware, even last night, that the frantic movement of everyone in Lower Manhattan running for their lives was already cascading through society that September morning.
On closing Gitmo, quote, “Therapy isn‘t going to cause terrorists to change their mind.” A, not everyone in Gitmo is a terrorist; B, Mr. Bush himself said he wanted to close Gitmo. Most amusingly, C, it was Mr. Bush who first sent Gitmo detainees to—yes—the Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Nayef Center for Care and Counseling; and D, the Carnegie Endowment found that care and counseling care got 1,400 prisons to renounce violence.
On the economy, “I know it‘s going to be the private sector that leads this country out of the current economic times,” yet, quote, “I firmly believe it was necessary to put money in our banks.”
On health care, “I worry about encouraging the government to replace the private sector, plus, you can spend your money better than the government can spend your money.”
He then left on roads pave with government money, with Secret Service agents paid with government money, covered in case of an accident by their respective government health care plans.
Let‘s bring in Chris Hayes, the Washington editor of “The Nation” magazine—which despite the title, does not paid for by your tax dollars.
Thanks for your time tonight, sir.
CHRIS HAYES, THE NATION: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: In this man‘s defense, has he painted himself into a corner, to some degree, saying he would not openly criticize Obama while still wanting to defend his own policies—especially because so much of Mr. Obama‘s presidency is, in fact, fixing those Bush policy mistakes?
HAYES: Yes, right. I think it‘s natural to want to defend oneself. And I actually think this entire convention that somehow it‘s un-statesmanlike or violating some, you know, inviolable taboo for an ex-president to speak ill of the current president is kind of silly. I mean, they‘re private citizens. If they have something to say, say it.
I mean, you know, I really would have liked if, say, President Bill Clinton had vociferously used political capital to oppose the Iraq war. He didn‘t do it, you know? So I‘m not quite sure where this norm comes from, but I think it‘s kind of a dumb one anyway.
OLBERMANN: Yes, Theodore Roosevelt certainly didn‘t adhere to it in 1912 .
HAYES: Yes, that‘s right.
OLBERMANN: . 1916 or 1920, come to think of it, or any of those years.
OLBERMANN: Describe for me a world in which history teachers tell their students just this—not that it‘s even mixed or that there was you know, a strong response, but just this—that President Bush‘s legacy is: he protected the country. Do you just skip 9/11 and that sort of construction, that sort of—that sort of educational system?
HAYES: Yes, I guess so. It‘s the weirdest thing that this is the legacy they‘re so focused on, when it is, just an objective empirical fact that no president has seen more civilian deaths from a terrorist attack and terrorist attacks than George W. Bush. I mean—you know, so it‘s just unclear how that could possibly be, you know, what they want to hang their presidency on. And clearly, that‘s—you know, they‘ve retreated back. I mean, I think, they‘re basically—to be honest—conceded everything else, right?
HAYES: I mean, basically, the argument is: we basically screwed up every single thing, but at least there wasn‘t another attack. But there was the first one, and there was also, you know, almost $2 trillion lit on fire in Iraq in the bailout and also, 4,500 Americans dead in Iraq, not to count the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and tens of thousands of Afghanis. You know, that‘s quite a toll to be hanging your legacy on.
OLBERMANN: One assumes they thought they were going to get some sort of a positive thing to upend to the end of that sentence.
OLBERMANN: I mean, we would mention the other Roosevelt. Franklin Roosevelt, if he‘d left office on December 8, 1941, he would have been remembered as the president that did a nice job on the economy out of a depression.
HAYES: That‘s exactly right.
OLBERMANN: But guess what? Pearl Harbor, but then he did stay and fought through the entire Second World War.
HAYES: Right. That‘s right.
OLBERMANN: And people don‘t look back on Pearl Harbor as having defined it because there was something compensatory, historically out of it.
HAYES: Although, thank goodness that we have term limits so we‘re not in that.
OLBERMANN: And still—and still needs and receives and deserves criticism about Pearl Harbor. This other point—does it—what does it say that Americans went from favoring the Bush economic philosophy, such as it was, to this new NBC poll from yesterday that shows that Americans favor a public option as a health care choice, and two-thirds nearly are OK with taxing the rich to get the public option?
HAYES: What it shows is that policies and governance matter. This is something that a very good blogger named Matt Yglesias has been hitting home on a blog a lot recently, is that you can‘t separate politics from the actual, real world outcomes that those politics produce. And so, back when everyone thought that the Republicans are going to have a permanent governing majority, everyone just thought that, you know, they could use their political mojo and magic, and the fact that they were objectively driving the country into the ditch wouldn‘t matter. It does matter.
OLBERMANN: As Robert Gibbs said today responding to all this, we had that debate, we kept score last November and we won.
OLBERMANN: The Washington editor of “The Nation” magazine, Chris Hayes, still operating independently of taxpayer funds—thank you, Chris.
HAYES: You got it. Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: One note about the Obama administration, I reported last night that the president‘s memo giving some marriage benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees did not carry the same heft as an executive order would have because the president‘s memoranda expires when his presidency does. The White House Press Office contends that is not accurate, that memos and orders are virtually identical, and barring definitive evidence to the contrary, we will defer to their interpretation.
Ever heard of this phrase, “nettlesome problem”? Well, these are nettles; and these maroons here, these are holding a nettle-eating contest.
The contest at worst is, as ever, for public stupidity. Karl Rove is always a good entry. His bet tonight—complaint that ABC is getting unprecedented access to the White House in exchange for trying to sell a president‘s agenda. Well, Karl would know that subject backwards and forwards, would he not?
OLBERMANN: Best in a moment. One Adam 12, one Adam 12, the suspect is considered fire engine red haired, extremely dangerous and he claims he deserves a break today.
First, on this date in 1178, in the evening, five monks in the British town of Canterbury told their colleagues they had just seen the moon explode into flames. For years, the scientists believed that the monks did indeed see something big—an asteroid impact that became a giant lunar crater. Then somebody calculated that that would have caused the earth to be showered with about 10 million pounds of lunar projectiles that would have lit up the skies worldwide for weeks and that somehow those five monks in Canterbury didn‘t mention that. The conclusion, they saw a meteor explode between here and the Moon, in their line of sight to the Moon. And by the way, the lunar landmark they did not see formed 831 years ago tonight was then named after the scientist Jordano Bruno, who was burned at the stake for heresy in 1600 when he got this constellation prize, a crater.
Let‘s play Oddball.
We begin in Brooklyn, with this security cam footage of 79-year-old Irene Prusik (ph). There she in the red dress at the local DMV. Only problem is Irene Prusik was no longer alive by the time this video was made. The impostor you saw on the screen is actually Ms. Prusik‘s son, 49-year-old Thomas Parkin, who had been impersonating his deceased mother for the past six years, channeling his inner Norman Bates with the aid of a wig, makeup and glasses, all to cash in on her Social Security checks. Parkin was indicted on 47 counts of grand larceny, forgery, conspiracy and wearing big sunglasses. Along with this accomplice, a Mrs. Doubtfire.
Dorcester, England, hello! It‘s competitive eating for the vegetarian set, at the World‘s Stinging Nettle Eating Championship. Participants are served two foot-long stalks. They pluck the stalks and they eat the leaves. That‘s not the delicious part. The nettle plant is covered in thousands of microscopic needles. Each needle is filled with Boric Acid. Ha, ha, ha! Which is all you‘ll be able to say after you have some.
Competitors are encouraged either to eat the nettles raw or dip them into a pint of beer. After an hour of plant to mouth combat, we have a winner. To the victor go the spoils. And the old expression is, grab the nettle.
He has now implied Sonia Sotomayor is a cleaning lady. Paul Lynde made a joke like that once, and was fired by the “Hollywood Squares” two minutes later. It‘s time.
And we‘ve seen them online. Now hear them acted out. The e-mails from the Congressional staffer, who despite six apologies, repeatedly tells her correspondents, don‘t call me Liz! That‘s not actually her. Looks more like the guy who is pretending to be his mother.
These stories are ahead, perhaps. But first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world.
Number three, best pinch hitter. Dusty Rhodes has died in Las Vegas of a heart attack. Pinch hit home run in the tenth inning that won the first game of the 1954 World Series for the New York Giants. And a pinch hit single in the fifth inning that tied the second game of that World Series, and he stayed in to hit the clinching home run. Then his pinch hit single brought in the winning margin in the third game.
He didn‘t appear in the fourth game, and there weren‘t any other games, because his Giants swept the heavily favored Indians, mostly because of his performance. James Dusty Rhodes was 82.
Number two, best bar, Casa Poko, and owner Bernard Mariusz of Cuierra (ph), in Spain. Near Valencia this is. Recognizing the frustration of his patrons in these challenging times, he‘s now encouraging them to insult the bar staff. Free drinks, in fact, for the most original or hilarious insults. Ah, a place to bring that don‘t call me Liz lady.
And number one, best dumb criminal, Eduardo Lazcano of New York, got off the bus there and was almost immediately arrested by police on charges he burgled a house in nearby Peakskille, possibly because the victim had described to police the invader in his home as having hair, dyed a very bright red. They narrowed it down to him or Ronald McDonald.
OLBERMANN: With increasing desperation and decreasing awareness of the world around him, Rush Limbaugh speeds inexorably towards career self-destruction. There may be some politicians and some advertisers happy to be associated with undeniable racism. But the ones who aren‘t will probably let this be known one contract non-renewal and one repudiation at a time.
Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, Limbaugh compares the Supreme Court nominee to a housekeeper, and offers her a vacuum cleaner. Meantime, the American public, comfortably ahead of this nonsense, views her more favorably than other recent Supreme Court nominees. Boss Limbaugh in a tizzy because Judge Sonia Sotomayor revealed, in documents provided to a Senate Judiciary Committee, that she is a member of a professional organization for women called the Balezian Grove.
Limbaugh wondered how liberals would have reacted if recent male Supreme Court nominees had been part of an all-male club.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Would they have forgiven the judge‘s involvement in an all-boys club? Or would they have erupted in a full flown five alarm rage? Safe to say, any conservative in this situation would find their nomination dead in the water, clubbed like a baby seal. No question about it. I think I‘m going to send Sotomayor and her club a bunch of vacuum cleaners to help them clean up after their meetings.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Parenthetically, do you think Rush is invested in a teleprompter and really doesn‘t know how to use it yet? Meantime, the judge continues to meet with senators. And like recent Supreme Court candidates before her, she‘s avoided offering her positions on hot button issues like abortion and individual gun rights, other than to say she respects precedent.
The public is largely behind her. Nonetheless, among respondents who say they know enough to offer on opinion, 43 percent support her, either strongly or somewhat; 20 percent oppose her either strongly or somewhat. And her support number exceeds that of Justice Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts at about the same in their own nominations.
Let‘s turn now to the associate professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton University, Melissa Harris-Lacewell. Good evening. Pleasure to see you in person.
MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL: Yes, nice to be here.
OLBERMANN: Let‘s get this one thing out of the way. What is the difference between Judge Sotomayor‘s membership in this all-female professional association and some hypothetical judge in an old boys club, like it would have been 30 years ago, known as the Supreme Court?
HARRIS-LACEWELL: I was going to say, actually, the Supreme Court still is an old boys club in many ways. I mean, the first Supreme Court was seated in 1790. Between that and 2009, there have been exactly two African-American men and two white women. And over those years, they‘ve made decisions on slavery.
HARRIS-LACEWELL: Immigration. Every important thing that governs who we are as a democracy. So I think the real anxiety, the real issue that is emerging here is a sense of how dare a woman of color imagine herself part of a group that will make decisions not just about women, not just about people of color, but about everyone in the country. It‘s a real question of citizenship.
OLBERMANN: And also this idea of being a member of a club, an organization, dedicated to professionals in a field who represent a group that has been in some way discriminated against, harassed. Very few men over the years have had some sort of economic situation where they were paid less for the same work than some woman was doing down the street. There is still have sort of compensatory part of society that when you equate an all-men‘s club and an all-women‘s club, that doesn‘t make any sense, unless you deliberately leave it out of the equation?
HARRIS-LACEWELL: Certainly. It‘s a kind of flatness that the right likes to do so that we can talk about it as if it‘s all fairness, all identity groups. Maybe Limbaugh hasn‘t noticed, for example, that there are powerful Republican women‘s groups. Republican women are some of the most organized political women in country. They get together with just other Republican women, and talk about Republican women things all the time.
OLBERMANN: I mentioned this with the vacuum cleaner line. This is quite serious; 28 years ago—and the way the story was told to me by a witness—the great comedian Paul Lynde, who was on “Hollywood Squares” towards the end of his career, and, in fact, the end of his life, made a joke that involved minority women and cleaning ladies was the phrase that was still in use then. And the producers stormed out of the control room, stopped the taping, fired him on the spot and ordered that entire series of shows erased.
He was fired, out of work, essentially the end of his career at that point. Why is that not happening here? Is there something more important about 1981 “Hollywood Squares” than 2009 political discourse on the radio?
HARRIS-LACEWELL: Maybe. I have to say, as a tenured professor who says outrageous things on Twitter usually ten time as day, I‘m sort of pleased that we can‘t just be fired for saying even completely outrageous and awful things. I‘ll also say that I think the big key is not so much what Limbaugh utters, but how we react as the public.
When I teach lynching to my students, the most interesting part of the lynching photographs is that everyone is standing there and facing the camera, perfectly proud to be part of this. What‘s exciting about Limbaugh‘s outburst is that white men with television shows say things like, this is completely appalling. Let‘s bring a young black woman on to talk about how appalling it is.
So everything is not OK, but we are in a fundamentally different place and the fact that so much of the American populist rejects it is, for me, part of what we ought to be focusing on.
OLBERMANN: It‘s a thick, old tree and it takes a long time to cut them down, especially if there‘s a forest full of them.
HARRIS-LACEWELL: And when the Senate is apologizing for slavery on the same day, you know, I mean, it‘s progress. It‘s not the end point, but it‘s progress and in an important way.
OLBERMANN: Amen. Melissa Harris-Lacewell of Princeton University, thanks for coming in. Pleasure.
And the four words soon to earn an iconic place in American culture, perhaps even the professor will teach this some day: Don‘t call me Liz. The reading aloud of these now infamous e-mails?
And a day after President Obama rips Fox News for perpetually ripping him, one of its defenders misquote what the president said, proving his point.
And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, new evidence that Senator John Ensigns extramarital affair actually means something and is morphing from his own problem into a mess for the National Republican Party.
OLBERMANN: Don‘t call me Liz. If you know what that means, you should be putting the popcorn in the microwave just about now. If you don‘t, trust me. The dramatic reading of the emails next.
But first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worst persons in the world.
The bronze to Republican State Senator Dianne Black of Tennessee. It was her staffer, Sherri Goforth (ph), who was responsible for forwarding this by state e-mail, a collage of the presidents, with Obama in the lower right-hand corner, represented by just a pair of white eyes against a black background.
Don‘t worry, State Senator Black has issued what she called a strongly worded reprimand to go forth, which reads in full, “Dear Sherri, this is a follow-up to confirm our conversation regarding the stat e-mail policy. First, as we discussed, e-mail communications are for state use only, and shot not be used for purposes outside of the guidelines established. Also, as we discussed, no communication that is derogatory regarding any minority should be sent from this office or that employee will be subject to termination at my office. I know you take this policy seriously. And I‘m confident that you will abide by the policy. Your service to my office and the legislature has been commendable, with the exception of this incident. And I look forward to working together in the future within these guidelines. Sincerely, Diane Black.”
That will show her. You missed it, senator. Not only did you need to fire Sherri Goforth, but you had the chance to say simply, Sherri, go forth.
Runner-up is Karl Rove complaining on Fox News about ABC‘s upcoming special on health care reform, originating at the White House. When the news model said, “It seems rather unprecedented, Rover replied, “this is an unprecedented access to the White House. More importantly, an unprecedented use of the White House. I can‘t remember a time when a network came in that was going to devote a significant block of time to covering an issue that was on the president‘s agenda.”
How about the Iraq war, Karl? More recently, in February last year, Fox ran what it calm a documentary on President Bush, which opened with these words: “Fox News has been granted unprecedented access inside the president‘s world.”
But our winner, columnist Charles Krauthammer, putting in his usually counterfeit two cents, on Obama‘s media criticism from Tuesday, with this quote, “what‘s really interesting the president yesterday has said, he complained about Fox. And he said, I think accurately, that it is the one only voice of opposition in the media. The rest of the media are entirely in the tank. It‘s embarrassing. You would think it would be an embarrassment that would deter them.”
Fox is the only voice of opposition? Of course that is not at all what Obama said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: First of all, I‘ve got one television station entirely devoted to attacking my administration. And you‘d be hard-pressed if you watched the entire day to—to find a positive story about me on that front.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: So Charles Krauthammer twisted that to make it sound like Fox was the only voice of opposition. What is the rest of that quote? “It‘s embarrassing. You would think it would be embarrassment that would deter them.” It doesn‘t work with Charles Krauthammer, today‘s worst person in the world.
OLBERMANN: There is a pediatrician in Augusta, Georgia, named Dr. Elizabeth Becton. If you know her and she seems a little put out tonight, she‘s got damn good reason. You know that old joke, some clown has gotten ahold of your name and is sending out crazy letters or e-mails? Poor Dr. Becton.
Our number one story, tonight‘s WTF moment, there is another Elizabeth Becton, known to her friends as Elizabeth. And she is gradually becoming internationally known, not in a good way.
Yesterday, on the Shenanigans Blog of the “Politico” website was printed a chain of emails between the Elizabeth Becton, who is the executive assistant and office manager for the Democratic Congressman from Washington state, Jim McDermott, and an unnamed executive assistant for McBee (ph) Strategic Consulting.
The person from McBee was trying to book a meeting with Elizabeth Becton‘s boss, the congressman, neither of whom are pictured here next to me. The first request was addressed to Elizabeth. It went unanswered. The second request, five days later, was addressed to Liz. And it unleashed a torrent of outrage that we will review in its entirety presently.
We took a few liberties here. We‘re not sure of the gender of the McBee person. So we just used a guy. And Ms. Becton‘s fill in, who is shown here, is actually another guy who works here in a wig. We won‘t be seeing him for several weeks I think after this thing plays.
In any event, what we did not fake was the content of these e-mails. Also, note the Congressman‘s office says Ms. Becton has apologized to her correspondent, both publicly and in person. So, caveats out of the way, behold. And just a suggestion, don‘t call her Liz.
OLBERMANN: Elizabeth, attached is a meeting request for JP Morgan Chase, who will be in D.C. June 3rd and 4th and would like to request a brief meeting with the Congressman. Let me know if you need any additional information. Thank you.
Hi, Liz. Just checking in on whether the Congressman is available next week.
Can confirm a meeting time for you. She is available at—
Thank you. Best.
Who is Liz?
Hi Elizabeth. I thought you went by Liz. Apologies if that is incorrect. Best.
I do not go by Liz. Where did you get your information?
Hi, Elizabeth. I‘m so sorry if I offended you. I thought you had gone by Liz at Pot-Latch (ph). This was my mistake. Best.
Never. I hate that name.
Hi, Elizabeth. I‘m so sorry if I offended you. I must have misheard.
My mistake. Best.
OLBERMANN: To this point, the affair of Ms. Becton and the person who did not know not to call her Liz is still within the realm of virtually everybody‘s personal experience. It is a vexing problem to be named Keith and have somebody call you Pete. If you‘re Debra and you can live with Deb, but you abhor diminutives, it‘s understandable you may not even look up when somebody shouts hey, Debby.
But now, at 5:20 pm, on the otherwise delightful afternoon of the 27th of May, this all became something else indeed.
If I wanted you to call me by any other name, I would have offered that to you. I think it‘s rude when people who don‘t even ask permission and take all sorts of liberties with your name. This is a real sore spot with me. My name has a lot of nicknames which I don‘t use. I use either my first name or my last name, because I row with a lot of other women who share the same first name.
Now, please do not ever call me by a nickname again. As for your meeting request, who is the point of contact for this meeting? If it‘s fought you, then I need to know who because it‘s very time consuming to deal with a lot of people for one meeting. Thanks.
Elizabeth, I‘m so sorry I offended you. My mistake.
Can confirm a meeting time for you. She is available at—
Sounds like you got played by someone who knows I hate that name, and that is a fast way to tick me off. Who told you that I go by that name? They are not your friend.
Hi, Elizabeth. Again, I‘m sincerely sorry for offending you. I don‘t want to cause trouble, as I clearly must have misheard the person at Pot-Latch. It was in no way my intention to make you upset. Best.
I really want to know who told you to call me that.
Hi, Elizabeth. Again I am sincerely sorry for offending you. I don‘t recall who I overheard. It was in no way my intention to make you upset. Best.
Let me put it this way, they don‘t know me and perhaps were pretending to know me better than they do, and pretended that I go by Liz. They did you a disservice. In the future, you should be very careful about such things. People like to brag about their connections in D.C.! It‘s a past time for some. It‘s also dangerous to eavesdrop, as you have just found out.
Quit apologizing and never call me anything but Elizabeth again. Also, make sure you correct anyone who attempts to call me by any other name but Elizabeth! Are we clear on this? Like I said, it‘s a hot button for me.
OLBERMANN: And so it is finally at an end. Oh, no, it isn‘t. There was a P.S.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And please don‘t call the office and not leave a message.
My colleague tells me that you called when I was away in the lady‘s room.
I do sometimes leave my desk.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Hi. Is Liz there?
That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 2,240th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq. I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Transcription Copyright 2009 CQ Transcriptions, LLC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research.
User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s
personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed,
nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion
that may infringe upon MSNBC and CQ Transcriptions, LLC‘s copyright or
other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal
transcript for purposes of litigation.>